Category Archives: the "townies" dilemma

Coming Down Off the Hill

I live in an economically challenged city with a very expensive university. This university is on a hill above the city and for many years only came down to do research and dispense charity. Although they have given us many hours of wonderful sports to enjoy they have never offered special tuition rates to residents of the city. For many years they had an off campus division devoted to serving part time and evening students, but costs were the same as for on campus courses. Most city and area residents of middle means or below have to go out of town to college.

In many ways (besides sports) we are very lucky that this university is so successful. It puts us on the map of the state. It is probably responsible for the richness of our cultural life. After all, we have a very good symphony orchestra which would most likely not have lasted here without the patronage of the university. We used to attract major ballets, we have a famous authors lecture series, we have several options for theater including the university student theater.

This university shows signs lately of trying to interact with the city in a more positive way. Our city is dying. The university is trying to help resuscitate it. They want to create a “corridor” to connect the university and the city. They made a tangible contribution to the city when they moved their architecture students studios to a downtown location (near the most vibrant downtown area.) Now they want to add bicycle lanes to this corridor which connects the university and its architecture students. The push for bicycle lanes seems more than a little self serving. In a city that gets an average of 100 inches of snow each winter, bike lanes sound expensive to design and maintain given the economic and meteorological climate. Although it seems low on the priority list of a city that is basically empty, it may have some unforeseen benefits. Anything that brings the university down off the hill and gets them to interact with the rest of us, to lend us their considerable talents, should have some positive outcomes. Already it has attracted an architectural and an engineering firm back into downtown (albeit, it to that only vibrant neighborhood.)

It is still also true that most people from the area cannot even think about going to this school. Most of us have to start at the community college and transfer out of town to finish our college educations, and maybe we end up living the rest of our lives elsewhere.

I believe if you wanted to forge a lifetime relationship with a community you would offer the people in that community a way to lift themselves up – well publicized scholarships or special fee rates. There is a lot of resentment in this community along with our appreciation and gratitude. We want our university to stay, but we would like to be able to pursue our college careers here, in our own city.